Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Senate's MOHELA Bill Signed by Senate Leader

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) today signed off on Senate Bill 967, effectively sending the measure to the governor’s desk where it awaits approval.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter) allows the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA) to expand its student loan offerings by permitting the state-sponsored organization to serve as the original source for federal Stafford loans.

Currently, MOHELA is one of the only state-based student loan lending institutions in the country that does not originate, or serve as the original funding source for federally-guaranteed Stafford loans. Other federal loans are available under the same Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), but MOHELA was not authorized to originate Stafford loans.

Federal loans are generally the most affordable loans available to students with the best interest rates and deferred payments until after graduation. By allowing MOHELA to expand its current offerings, students approved for Stafford loans could choose MOHELA from among a list of eligible lenders.

Senate Bill 967 received final approval from the Senate earlier this month, and was passed yesterday (4/28) by the House.

The 2008 regular session will run through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Senate's Tax Credit Bill Endorsed by House Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Bill 718, sponsored by Sen. Harry Kennedy (D-St. Louis), was passed today by the House Special Committee on Job Creation and Economic Development. The bill is now eligible for further debate on the House floor.

The primary component of the legislation extends the life of the Missouri Quality Jobs Act, an initiative enacted by the Legislature in 2005 to attract and retain employers by offering tax credits to companies paying workers the average, or above-average county wage, and offering to pay at least 50 percent of the premium for basic health insurance. The original legislation suspended the issuance of tax credits through the program as of last summer; SB 718 extends the tax credit program through August 30, 2013. It also increases the maximum amount of tax credits that can be issued under the act from $40 million to $60 million.

Other maximums for certain state tax credit programs would be increased as well. For instance, tax credit ceilings for the Neighborhood Assistance Act for economic development projects would increase from $4 million to $6 million. The cap on the annual issuance of tax credits for the enhanced enterprise zone tax credit program would increase from $14 million to $24 million. Also, the aggregate cap on tax credits that may be issued annually under the Small Business Incubators Act would increase from $500,000 to $2 million.

Finally, any applicant for state tax credits who knowingly and directly employs illegal immigrants would be required to forfeit any received tax credits that have yet to be used. Any spent tax credits would be repaid for the period of time in which the recipient employed illegal workers.

The 2008 regular session will run through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

-END-

Senate Bill Barring Felons from Holding Public Office Receives First Nod

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate gave first-round approval today to Senate Bill 1245, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin). A second vote sends the bill to the House for similar consideration.

Under current law, any person who commits a felony in Missouri is ineligible to run for public office. However, the law does not specify whether or not a felony committed in another state would also disqualify a candidate.

Senate Bill 1245 clarifies the statute by explicitly stating that those who commit a felony in Missouri or commit a crime that would be considered a felony in Missouri in another state, are barred from qualifying as a candidate for or holding public office.

The 2008 regular session will run through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Senators Named to Budget Conference Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) today appointed five senators to serve on the Appropriations Conference Committee, which will further discuss the state budget for fiscal year 2009.

Senators Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), Robert Mayer (R-Dexter), Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville), Joan Bray (D-St. Louis), and Tim Green (D-St. Louis) will all serve on the conference committee that is charged with helping to reach a compromise between the two chambers on the Missouri budget. The committee’s suggestions will then be sent to the General Assembly for approval before moving to the governor’s desk.

The Senate Appropriations Committee received a House-approved budget in late March and brought revisions before the full Senate last week. The initiatives, House Bills 2001 through 2013, each allocate funds to specific departments and areas. Of these 13 budget bills brought before the General Assembly, only HB 2001 has received final approval from both chambers. House Bills 2002 through 2013 will be discussed in the conference committee, which will also include five House members.

Highlights of the Senate’s proposed $22.6 billion budget include a $121.3 million increase to fully fund the state’s Foundation Formula, a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees, and $340 million for a proposed health-care program. As it stands, the budget has increased by $356.4 million from last year.

The Missouri Constitution requires the Legislature to pass the budget one week before the legislative session ends. This year’s deadline falls on May 9.

The 2008 regular session will run through May 16. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an email to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wide-Ranging Child-Related Bill Approved By House Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — A Senate bill that protects those who report incidents of child abuse, as well as addresses other issues relating to children was passed by the House Special Committee on Family Services this week. Committee approval sends the measure to the House floor for debate.

Senate Bill 885, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia), provides immunity from any civil or criminal liability to any person who reports a case of suspected child abuse, neglect, or assault to the proper authorities — including liability for any action taken by an institution, facility or agency. The measure also allows investigation reports of child abuse or neglect to be released to the alleged offender with pending criminal charges stemming from facts named in the report prior to an indictment. Currently, the offender has 60 days from receiving notice from the Central Registry of the Children’s Division to seek a reversal and a review of the findings by the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board. The offender also has 60 days to seek judicial review of the board’s decision. Sen. Graham’s bill reduces the time period from 60 days to 30 days in both instances.

Current law prohibits juvenile courts from placing a child with a parent if that parent or any person in the residence is found guilty of or has pled guilty to child abuse or a felony sexual offense involving a child. Senate Bill 885 expands it further to include acts committed in other states.

The legislation also makes it clear that parents and legal guardians of minors have a fundamental right to determine the care, health care, teaching and education of their child, as long as those decisions do not violate current state laws. Sen. Graham’s bill revises the definition of “parent’ as it applies to parental rights, to include a birth parent, a presumed father of the child, as well as the husband of the birth mother at the time the child was conceived, or a parent of a child by adoption. A presumed father would not have a legal relationship with the child unless he acknowledges the child by asserting his paternity.

Finally, the measure lowers the age for which the juvenile court does not have jurisdiction over a child who purportedly violates a state or municipal traffic ordinance or regulation from 15 and a half to 15 years of age. It also allows a peace officer in Missouri, upon a request by another peace officer or prosecuting attorney in the state or any other state, as well as the federal government, to disclose records or any other information involving a person under 17 years old.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, call (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Senate's Property Tax Reform Bill Clears House Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate’s solution for dealing with rising property taxes, Senate Bill 711, was passed by the House Ways and Means Committee today.

Senate Bill 711, sponsored by Senate leader Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), requires all taxing jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are operating at or below their tax rate ceiling, to roll back their tax rate to offset reassessment increases. Under current law, only taxing jurisdictions operating at their tax rate ceiling are required by Missouri's Constitution to roll back to protect taxpayers, leaving taxing entities operating below their ceiling to approve undisclosed tax increases with no legal remedy for taxpayers.

The legislation would also close a loophole that has allowed taxing districts to apply new voter-approved levies to future and unknown assessments. For example, under the current law, taxing jurisdictions can take a tax increase approved by the voters in 2008 and then apply that new tax rate to the higher reassessed value in 2009.

It also requires that taxpayers receive more information regarding their property tax responsibility in the form of a projected tax liability statement along with their reassessment notices. Charter counties would provide these in 2009, with all other counties participating by 2011. Additionally, SB 711 increases the Senior Citizen Property Tax Credit from $750 to $1,100, and expands those eligible to include homeowners with an income of up to $30,000 for singles and $40,000 for married couples.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Green Sales Tax Holiday Approved by Senate Committee

JEFFERSON CITY — A Senate bill that proposes a sales tax break for green-friendly consumers was passed by the Senate Commerce, Energy and Environment Committee today.

Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis) is sponsoring Senate Bill 1117, which creates the "Show Me Green Sales Tax Holiday” to encourage the purchase of energy efficient home appliances. Beginning in 2009 and each following year, the seven-day tax break would run April 19 through April 25. The first $1,500 Missourians pay per Energy Star-certified appliance would be exempt from state sales tax.

Cities and counties may opt in to the sales tax holiday at their discretion. If enacted, the measure will expire August 28, 2012.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Forensic Exam Bill Receives First-Round Approval from Senate

JEFFERSON CITYSenate Bill 1159, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) received first-round approval from the Missouri Senate today.

The measure changes how forensic examinations are conducted for victims of sexual assault. For instance, if a medical provider believes that the offender is the victim’s parent or guardian, and the victim is under the age of 18, the medical provider is only required to provide written notice of an exam to the parent or guardian not suspected of committing sexual assault.

When conducting a forensic exam and providing treatment, medical professionals follow a checklist developed by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Sen. Gibbons’ legislation also requires the department to develop a kit for medical providers to use to collect evidence, if necessary.

Under current law, DHSS pays medical providers to cover any forensic exam charges for sexual assault victims. Senate Bill 1159 requires that medical providers be paid from a newly created fund that has the specific purpose of paying the costs of such exams.

A second vote sends the bill to the House for similar consideration. For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Senate Endorses Bill to Better Autism Education and Services for Missourians

JEFFERSON CITY — Legislation that offers Missourians living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) comprehensive resources for diagnosis, treatment and other services received first-round approval from the Missouri Senate yesterday. A second vote sends the bill to the House for similar consideration.

Senate Bill 768, sponsored by Sen. Scott T. Rupp (R-Wentzville), creates the Missouri Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders that will advise the governor, members of the General Assembly and state agencies, as well as develop a sweeping statewide plan for an integrated system of training, treatment and services for people of all ages with ASD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism strikes one in 150 children in the United States — more than AIDS, juvenile diabetes and cancer combined. Last year, the General Assembly more than doubled the funding for autism diagnosis and treatment, helping to shorten the wait time for individuals needing services.

The measure is the result of several recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism created last year by Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood) to help formulate a plan for how the state can improve services relating to ASD. The 16-member panel, consisting of parents, lawmakers, doctors, educators and other healthcare professionals, held hearings across Missouri to listen to testimony from experts and those affected by autism. The panel presented its report in December and can be viewed online at www.senate.mo.gov/autism.

Under the legislation, the Office of Autism Services would also be formed to serve as a starting point for families and direct them to the proper diagnosis and treatment services, helping Missouri families find the proper resources quickly and efficiently.

For more information about the events and legislation in the Missouri Senate, visit www.senate.mo.gov. To contact Senate Communications, dial (573) 751-3824 or send an e-mail to newsroom@senate.mo.gov.